Hidden Honeysuckle

A lovely surprise awaited me on the allotment this weekend –  beautiful honeysuckle growing in the hedge. This is actually growing at the bottom of our garden which backs on to our allotment. It has entwined itself up the hedge and trees but is only really visible from the plot. I love the bright colour of the flowers and its heady fragrance.Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle has long been associated with superstition. In Victorian times it was grown around doors and gates to ward off witches and evil spirits. I hope we don’t have any of those on the allotment site. It was also supposed to induce pleasant dreams and lift your spirits which is why it must be used today in herbal and aromatherapy pillows. Honeysuckle

Whatever folklore has to say about it, I just love to have it in the garden.

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Ready, Steady, Grow!

May was very busy on the allotment front but now feel I can draw a sigh of relief knowing that everything (well, nearly everything)  has been planted. There have been times over the last month when I wondered if 2 plots was just over stretching myself! Luckily, up stepped The Husband.

The potatoes are looking very healthy – 5 different varieties, including my favourite, Desiree.

Potatoes on allotment

Potatoes – earthed

Onions (red and white), shallots and garlic all coming along nicely.Onions, garlic sauce and shallots

The peas and mange tout are looking promising. Some were grown on indoors and some planted straight in the ground.Peas and mange tout

I can hardly believe the strawberries are starting to ripen (just in time for Wimbledon!)

Strawberries on the allotment

Something’s had a little taste!

The fruit bushes are doing well too – netted to stop those pesky birds having a feast.Fruit bushes on allotment

I’ve still got the courgettes, cucumber, leeks, squash and pumpkin to go in. One minor panic, somehow I’ve missed out brussel sprouts. It’s a tradition in our house that, on Christmas morning, The Husband digs up the brussels for Christmas lunch. So I think a trip to the nursery to pick up some plants is called for.

A disappointment along the way – my salad. Usually I just sow seeds straight into the ground every 2 weeks,  which is what I’ve done this year. Only the radishes have appeared, no sign of the lettuces after 3 sowings. Perhaps it hasn’t been warm enough?

I’m going to leave you with a query. This plant was left on our new plot by the previous occupant. It’s magnificent, it has beautiful blue flowers and is a real attraction for bees. The Husband and I thought it might be borage but it doesn’t quite match the description in the books we’ve consulted. Any suggestions gratefully received.

Allotment plant

Mystery plant.

Today is the first day of summer – in the meteorological calendar. So I’m hoping for a little warmth and sunshine – just what my allotment needs. Happy Gardening!

 

Back to Basics – Granny Squares

Like many other people, after I learnt the basic crochet stitches I progressed to ‘granny squares’ so when I finished my last baby blanket  and, feeling rather nostalgic, I fancied returning to the old, faithful motif. I wanted to make another blanket/throw. With warmer weather approaching (haha!), I figured it would be cooler to work with smaller pieces rather than having a cosy blanket on my lap.

In my mind’s eye I saw the classic square and so, after some research, I was rather taken aback to discover just how many variations there are. Using some odds and ends of yarn, I tried out some of the designs. My thanks to the bloggers who posted these patterns – I have included links to their blogs.

I liked this one, plain and simple – ‘Walled Garden’.

Granny square - walled garden

Walled Garden

Getting more adventurous with 2 colours – the ‘Squircle’

Squircle- granny square

Squircle

Then 3 colours – ‘Sunburst’.

Sunburst - granny square

Sunburst

3d effect on ‘4 hearts square’.

4 hearts - granny square

4 hearts

I could have gone on and on, it’s just unbelievable how many exciting designs I found. Eventually I made a decision and plumped for ‘Walled Garden’. Look how the effect changed when I added colour to the design.

Walled garden 3 colours

Walled Garden in 3 colours

It’s been fascinating playing around with the arrangement of colours – I have opted for greens and pinks with a cream border. Fellow blogger Lundygirl has a super idea for displaying granny squares as a piece of art. Check out her blog.

Progress on my throw has been slow – when I laid my stack of squares out the other day I was disappointed to find it was only about 1 metre square. What’s my excuse? Well, longer, lighter evenings means I haven’t been sitting down in the evening for so long and the allotment has been keeping me busy.

Now I’m afraid to say, I am becoming a bit bored with it – so it’s time to put it to one side and work on something else for a while – I need a few quicker projects to keep me motivated. However, I’ll keep you posted and hopefully you’ll eventually get to see my retro throw.

 

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2015

 

What a treat I’ve had this week! At work on Thursday lunchtime, I checked my phone for messages and whoah! A friend had some tickets for the Chelsea Flower Show and wanted to know if I would like to go! I didn’t need asking twice!

For those of you who are not familiar with this event, I’ll explain a little of the background – otherwise please feel free to skip the next two paragraphs.The annual Chelsea Flower Show, organised by the prestigious RHS (Royal Horticultural Society), is a showcase for both nursery exhibits and ‘show’ gardens. There is one large, or one might even say enormous, pavilion which houses all the floral displays and this is surrounded by the outdoor show gardens. The gardens are assembled on site in the 19 days before the event, on display for a week and dismantled within 5 days after the show closes.The entrants are judged and gold, silver-gilt, silver and bronze medals are awarded accordingly.

The event started in 1862 but since 1913 it has been located in the grounds of The Royal Hospital, Chelsea, London. This is actually a retirement and nursing home for retired soldiers, who are noted for their bright red jackets, and are seen strolling around the show.

Chelsea pensioners

I Chelsea-pensioners.co.uk

To return to my visit! It was warm and sunny and we had a brilliant day! So much to see and admire!

The Laurent-Perrier Chatsworth Garden was the winner of the Best Show Garden. Lots of greenery and wild areas (or weeds) which seemed a popular feature in many of the show gardens.

Chatsworth garden

Best show garden – Laurent Perrier Chatsworth Garden

The People’s Choice winner was Sentebale – Hope in Vulnerability. It’s aim is to transport you to Lesotho, South Africa and raise awareness of the country’s mission to tackle the stigma of HIV in its population.

People's Choice Sentebale

People’s Choice – Sentebale

I won’t bore you with all my photos ( the official website has all the gardens’ photos and details)  but here’s some of my personal highlights.

Slate apple

Slate sculpture for your garden

 

Layered slate seems to be trending this year on the trade stalls. Lots of interesting sculptures and other ‘garden furniture’ to tempt you, especially if you have money to burn.

Bird bath - if you've got a couple of thousand pounds spare!

Bird bath – if you’ve got a couple of thousand pounds spare!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who would have thought a display of potatoes could look so eye-catching?

Potato varieties

Pick of the crop

So many roses on display – I love looking at their names. This one particularly caught my attention. ‘I am Macmillan’ – a new rose which will raise money towards funding Macmillan nurses who offer care to patients affected by cancer, as well as supporting their families.

I am Macmillan rose

This rose will be available to buy next year

For fellow allotment gardeners – just look at how these vegetables are displayed!

Chelsea Flower Show vegetable display

So that’s my round up of this year’s Chelsea Flower Show. If you ever get the chance of tickets, it really is well worth a visit as there is just so much to see. The gardens are fascinating and you’re mentally redesigning your own garden at home – but please read my cautionary note below!

Health warning: Do not feel jealous, inferior or inadequate when viewing these gardensThey are ‘show’ gardens so I remind myself of these points.
– a team of people have been planning and working on the garden for the preceding year

– they only need to look spectacular for a week. What about all year round interest?
– there is no evidence of anyone using the garden. Where’s the compost bin, the washing line, the children’s bikes and goal posts?
– no expense has been spared in the construction of these gardens

Hope that makes everyone feel better! Happy gardening to you all!

 

 

Meanders in May

One of the joys of being a dog owner is that you have the excuse of going out in the fresh air for a walk.Labrador and border terrier

Of course Oscar and Rosie are always ready – whatever the weather!

Even though we live in a town, we are very lucky to have access to some beautiful countryside and one of our regular dog walking routes is across The Common. Daily walks give you the opportunity to watch as each season unfolds and I decided I would like to keep a visual record of the changes throughout the year. Luckily we had some dry, sunny mornings at the weekend and so I was able to take some shots as Oscar and Rosie enjoyed their early (well, earlyish) morning walk. The ground has dried out over the last few weeks and it has been great to abandon my wellies and wear my walking boots instead; but I’m still having to wear gloves and even a hat!

The CommonThe dandelions on The Common are gradually disappearing, leaving behind their feathery clocks, in their place are buttercups and clover.

Buttercups and clover

Of course, lots of cow parsley.Cow parsley

Some of the horse chestnuts were affected by a disease last year, which was introduced into the UK by European horse chestnuts, causing brown patches on the leaves and an early drop. Thankfully they have survived! This horse chestnut tree is such a fantastic shape and stands proudly on its own.Horse chestnut tree

And the flowers look pretty impressive too! Horse chestnut flowers

Being May, there’s an abundance of blossom on the hawthorns.May blossom

There’s even space on The Common for a Sunday morning game of football.Sunday morning football

It wouldn’t be a proper walk if Oscar didn’t find a stick – the bigger the better! He loves to play fetch; he’s never been trained but obviously it’s that retriever instinct.Labrador retriever Rosie, however, loves finding abandoned tennis balls and destroying them! We won’t dwell on what natural instinct that represents!Border terrier

Well that’s it! A little roundup to show you what I’m enjoying on our daily walk. ( I might not have said that on Monday when there was a terrific hailstorm but luckily The Husband was chief dog walker on that occasion).

I know that each month there will be something new to look at and I look forward to sharing them with you as the year goes by. Will keep you posted!

Top tips for planning your allotment!

Here are my top tips for planning your allotment. Spring is in the air, the ground is drying out so now is the time to get started.

Firstly, decide what you want to grow. Only grow what you like. I know it sounds obvious but……..for several years I had a beautiful white currant bush on my allotment which cropped prodigiously. However, the fruit was very sharp and was left on the bush to rot as I couldn’t find enough recipes to use more than a handful! Even the birds didn’t seem interested! Also bear in mind how you’re going to store your harvest when you have a bumper crop, see my previous post – 5 questions to ask before taking on an allotment. My top tip is to sit down with a seed or plant catalogue and write a list of all the things you fancy growing. Then go through your list again, eliminating anything that is not suitable for your soil or climate.

Use catalogues when planning your allotment planting

Browse through the catalogues

Next you need to decide how to grow your plants. There are two main options – from seed or plants. Seeds are obviously cheaper, but are more labour intensive. Oh, the satisfaction when the seeds germinate and the little seedlings appear – you can’t beat it! If you buy plants, then it can end up becoming pretty costly but you do see your plot filling up quickly and not worrying about whether conditions are right for germination. Another possibility is to start your seeds in the greenhouse. Sadly, I don’t have a greenhouse but I do have a conservatory and, yes you’ve guessed it, it doubles up as a hot house for my seeds and seedlings. For beginners, my top tip is to include both seeds and plants then you get the best of both worlds.

Order seeds for your allotment

Seeds or plants?

Having decided what to grow, now decide where to grow. Look on the seed packets or plant labels to see how much space everything needs and then roughly map out the position of your rows. In the past I have always drawn this out freehand, however this year The Husband has gone all techie and produced plans on the computer. Impressed?! This is important to do for two reasons. Firstly, you will need the plan when you actually arrive at the allotment ready to start work. Secondly, you need to keep a record for next year so you can ensure you rotate your crops. Obviously fruit bushes etc will remain in position but brassica, roots and legumes should be rotated in a 3 year cycle.

Allotment plot records

Keep a plan of your allotment

It’s getting closer to the time when you actually need to get out there and do something. So finally you need to decide when to plant. Look at your seeds (or plants), find out when they need to be started off (either indoors or outdoors) and write yourself a list. Then get your calendar or diary out and schedule in some time over the next few weeks when you can get down to the allotment and get your hands dirty!

Work on the allotment

Trug for the allotment

So there’s my top tips for planning your allotment – hope they help any of you just starting out on your allotment adventure!

 

Muddy Plot!

A sunny Sunday morning! Lots of work to do on the allotment.

Muddy boots

 

Oh dear! It’s a bit muddy! So work has to be postponed until the ground dries out.

At least I managed to dig up the final crop of last year’s leeks,

Leeks

The Husband managed to prune some of the fruit bushes,

Pruning fruit bushes

 

and we saw the first crop of the new year starting to grow!

Rhubarb

 

There’s so much to be done – we didn’t even finish digging all the beds over in the autumn. So much to do but we will just have to wait patiently for the soil to dry out…..